Albania is a great place to be a tourist. While some may associate Albania with communism, the country’s citizens greet visitors with welcome arms and open borders. And plenty of curiosity.
Albanians are anything but shy. Soon after crossing paths, you’ll tell them about your trip, they’ll get excited about the regions in Albania you’ve visited (‘shumë bukur’, ‘very nice’, should follow as a description of each city) and eventually, inevitably you’ll get the question:
‘Çift’ (pronounced cheeft) has several meanings but it’s used to ask if you’re in a relationship – be it dating, engaged or married.
Spend any time in Albania and someone will ask you this question, usually accompanied with rubbing the sides of their two pointer fingers against each other.
Any person, man or woman, girl or boy, older than 16 should be ‘çift’ by Albanian standards.
Anyone older than 20 travelling alone must have someone back home.
If not, the questions come like a flood filled with sympathy because obviously if you’re not at least dating someone by the age of 20, you’re surely going to die an old spinster.
Then come the offers.
‘I have a cousin. Very nice boy. Many sheep.’
‘My son. Good, strong boy. You open tourist hotel. We make cafe.’ (yes, I actually got this offer)
‘My husband’s sister’s father’s neighbour.’
‘I know someone. Come tomorrow.’
While the sympathy is appreciated (though quite unnecessary), the cultural differences are obvious. These encounters become part of the quintessential Albanian experience.
Any time spent in Albania is sure to be unique but explaining repeatedly that you are not ‘çift’ (often in varying levels of English) and not interested in their match for you becomes memorable and funny for both parties.
Most Albanians know you are not going to marry the boy or girl they have for you, but it’s an accepted cultural exchange and a sign of their welcoming attitude. They get a chance to know a traveller and you get a chance to experience Albanian culture.
See more of my Albanian adventures here.